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Diary, November 1999

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Monday, November 1, 1999


Today, I am celebrating my 38th birthday. Last Saturday, my daughter
Annabel reminded me that it was only to nights sleeping until it would be my birthday. I feel the older I become the less I care about celebrating my birthday. Not that I am afraid to recognize my age, otherwise, I would not have mentioned it in the first line. It just seems as if no longer my birthday is such a special day anymore.

To be honest, I have never liked birthdays so much, because they seem to be so much ruled by traditions and complex social interactions, that require all kinds of people to be satisfied.

I got four glasses with the first character of my name in Chinese as a birthday present, which made me very happy. Li-Xia must have bought them together with the tea-pot.

Li-Xia prepared a nice dinner for me, consisting of six dishes. One of this was tofu dipped in egg, fried with a little leek.


Tuesday, November 2, 1999

Annabel claims my chestnut

At school, I noticed a chestnut on the table of Annabel, when I brought her there. She immediately put it back in the basket on the middle of the table. When I showed her the chestnut from my pocket, she wanted to have it, and refused to let me go. I gave in under the promise that I could get it back in return of another one in the afternoon.

When I got her later, the first thing we did was swapping chestnuts. Are we mad? And if so, who is the maddest?

Sunday, November 7, 1999

Annabel using a desktop calculator

This afternoon, Annabel and I went shopping, because it was a shopping Sunday. (In the Netherlands the shops are usually closed on Sundays, except for a number of Sundays.) In one of the shops Annabel noticed a childrens book with a small calculator attached to it. She immediately told me that she wanted to have it, and refused to go away when I told her that she could not get it. All my usual tricks to get her away from it failed. When I applied force she started to scream. Finally, I gave in, because of the educational value of the book.

As soon as we had paid for it, she wanted to play with it. Then I discovered that the user-interface of a desktop calculator is far from ideal. You have to press the buttons in a very strict order, and you cannot correct any mistakes, except by repeating the sequence from the start. But what is more confusing, when you press certain buttons nothing visual happens, but the internal state of the calculator as changed. To make a simple sum like '3 + 4 =', I had to tell her which buttons she had to push. Especially, the '+' button confused her, because she remarked that she did not see anything happen, from which she concluded that it did not work.

Thursday, November 11, 1999

Andy sits up

This afternoon, Li-Xia was cleaning Andy's room after she had put him in our bedroom, because she wanted to clean his bed, when suddenly she saw him sit-up from lying on the ground. That was the very first time we saw him do this. Later this day, after I had arrived home, he did it another two times, of which I video taped the last time.

We feel about this as other parent do when their child walks free for the first time. I think we are going to have cake when Andy will walk free the first time!

Tuesday, November 16, 1999

First snow

When leaving the office this evening, I remarked to colleague that had to expect the first snow within ten days, when we noticed how cold it gets these days. And to my surprise, it did start snowing while driving home. And it continued snowing until we came home. The snow did not stay however. It quite early for the first snow, last year the first snow fell on November 25.

VAX/VMS documentation

Somebody has filled a bookcase besides our coffee vending machine with VAX/VMS documentation. We wondered why it is stored there, asking ourselves whether there is still a VAX/VMS machines around in the company. Sometimes in big companies, old documents are moved from one bookcase to another, until nobody knows anything about them anymore, and everybody is afraid to throw them away. Luckily, that is not what happened in this case, because there still hapened to be one VAX/VMS machine around, one of our colleagues explained. It even does have a mail account. Not so long ago, it was even used for fixing a Y2K problem with one of the oldest software packages produced here.

Everytime I pass by, I have to keep myself from picking out a manuals, and page through it.

Thursday, November 18, 1999

Small snow storm

When I looked outside this morning to check if the car was ready for use, e.g., I did not have to scratch off any ice, the car looked okay. About five minutes later, I decided to leave together with Annabel, but when I opened the door it was happily surprised to see that the car was covered by snow, and that it was snowing heavily. The snow did stay on the ground, but by the time I reached my office most of it was gone again.

Friday, November 19, 1999

Are all religions the same?

When leaving the cafeteria, I by accendent over heard someone say: "On my wanderings, I have come to the conclusion that basically, all religions are the same." My first thought was: "This is not true". I could resist the temptation to stay and try to catch more of the conversation. He explained what he ment with this statement, namely, that he had observed the all religious systems had arrived at the same set of moral laws: do not kill, do not steal, do not lie, do not take your neighbour's wife. He found it suprising that everywhere in the world people come to the same conclusions about what is just and right to do.

Indeed, in this sense all religions are the same. But are these ethic rules the result of religion or just the result of evolution, as some might say. I also dare to say that what makes a religion a religion is not it's sets of ethic rules. Of course, there is some relation: the ethics are the result of the teachings. But the reverse is definitely not true.

Sunday, November 21, 1999

When are you a child

This morning, Annabel came to my side of the bed, to ask me if she could go down, because she wanted to eat something. I told her that she should get dressed first. Then she asked me to help her. She can dress herself, so, I asked her why she could not do it by herself. She replied: "I am a child". Then we had some discussion about when you stop being a child. At least not when you have children yourself, she concluded.

Teaching Annabel the game of Go

This afternoon, Li-Xia helped me find the Go stones which I once got from one of my previous boses, who happened to play the game very well. Then I had to draw a 9x9 sized board. 13x13 seemed to big to start with anyway.

Annabel already had played the game before (with my help, of course) on the computer. But it was obvious that she did not really understand the rules nor the goal of the game. I decided to first focus on the rules for capturing stones. So, I just laid down some stones, and asked her to capture them with as few as possible stones. When she captured the stones, she was allowed to keep them.

I also tried to play a real game with her, but made her very upside down, when she discovered I was getting behind her, or when I captured stones from her. As long as I let her win, she liked it very much. We will see how this will develop.


Tuesday, November 30, 1999

Paper folding

In Japan, paper folding is an art, but in China it is a daily practice. Every school going child knows how to wrap things in paper without using glue, tape, or anything else. Even packing half a kilo in a normal sized sheet of paper is but a simple thing for the average Chinese. It used to that if you bought some sugar, you would get it packed in a square box, which was folded just while you waited. I wonder how these boxes are folded.

Red sky

around a quarter to five in the afternoon there was a beautiful red glow from the sun in the dark blue sky.

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